March 11th - 7 X 70
Then Peter came to Him and said, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. Matt 18:21-22 (NKJV)
In my ignorance--no, make that arrogance, I looked down on Peter for his lack of spiritual understanding. I have the benefit of hind-sight and so I know that Believers should never run out of forgiveness. Of course, forgiving someone who keeps doing the same thing against me 7 X 70 makes sense. Or does it?
Most of you have heard the saying: "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me." You already know what this means: If you trust someone and they end up falling short of your expectations or purposely act adversarial towards you--shame on them for taking advantage of your trust; however, if you extend trust to them a second time and they once again fail to live up to your expectations--shame on you for trusting them. There is a good bit of common sense that can be derived from this saying, but it does not take the high standard of Christian grace and forgiveness into consideration.
How do we mesh this common sense with the unbelievably high number that Jesus gave us when it comes to forgiveness? If I am to be honest about it all--Peter's number of seven seems to be very generous to my antagonist. (Let someone stab me in the back seven times? Yikes!!!) So, how do we go about forgiving people who sin against us over and over again? What do we do with those who decide to enter into an adversarial relationship with us, overriding our considerable effort to make it otherwise? This is one of the greatest challenges of the Christian walk.
The answer to this challenge is not simple nor particularly easy to put into practice. Here are three practical ideas: